Oct 21st, 2019 ・ Megan Felton

Alert - "Non-Comedogenic"!

Alert - "Non-Comedogenic"!


Before explaining why this term should be setting off your bs radar, it is important to define what comedogenic means. A comedogenic product is defined by the Pastiche Method as “a substance that is a high free fatty acid, or one that increases keratinocyte build-up in the pilosebaceous duct.” In other words, these are products that are more likely to clog the pores, and increase the chance of comedones AKA your breakouts worst enemy.

Therefore, a non-comedogenic product would mean the opposite, that the product doesn't contain ingredients likely to cause congestion and breakouts. It this a reliable term? Absolutely not! It is another marketing term that has no real requirements in order to be placed on a label. Even if most of these products contain fewer of the ingredients that are commonly known to obstruct pores, it is still not a guarantee, especially if you have acne-prone or oily skin.

Oh and the ‘comedogenicity scale’, which rates products 0-5 by the level an ingredient will clog pores is not standardised. We could go on for another post about this way to rate ingredient that was designed in 1979 by Kligman, but we will leave the study in the notes for you to look over yourself! The main issue we have, is that these ratings don't take into consideration the product’s formulation. Leaving key questions like ‘How do the comedogenic and non-comedogenic ingredients interact with the presence of other ingredients?’ unanswered.

If you’re thinking that the “oil-free” label is the alternative option then think again, in many cases these products have downsides as well and not all oils are bad, especially when they have been formulated in a clever way.


A non-comedogenic product is not a guarantee, due to the lack of regulation around what is required to use this term. That said, it will in some cases lower the chance of clogging the pores, and by doing this can reduce the risk of breakouts. That said, this label should absolutely not be understood as the solution to a certain skin condition, mood, or type. There are non-comedogenic products that are still not suited to breakout/oily skin, and products that by definition contain ‘comedogenic’ ingredients that can be beneficial to skin types that are acne-prone.

Help! What should I do? Know your skin: As mentioned before, each skin is very different, what might make one skin react may not for someone else with the same comedogenic ingredients. Avocado Oil for example may be way too rich for one, but a great weight for another. Therefore, assess your skin needs and define its triggers before purchasing any products.

  • Know your product: A good rule of thumb is paying attention to the consistency of a product (is it thin or thick?). The more creamy or thick a product is, then (most of the time) the higher the chance may be that it is too heavy for your skin (especially for those with acne-prone or oily skin). Therefore, look for formulations that are water-based, with liquid or gel consistency that feel light on the skin.

  • Know your formulation: Stop looking at marketing and labels, and look at the ingredients. Be wary of big claims. Things are not always as they seem, and some skin articles may mislead you on what is really bad. For example, while most think that avoiding mineral oil will avoid pore clogging, there are many other ingredients that can actually enhance the hyperkeratinization of the skin.

    • THE BADDIES: isopropyl myristate, isopropyl palmitate, ethylhexyl palmitate are the ones that you absolutely want to avoid. Lanolin is also considered as a mildly comedogenic substance. It is found in a variety of cosmetic products, and considered a wax rather than a fat. The offending comedogenic element of lanolin is lanolic acid. The following derivatives of lanolic acid are considered aggravating to active, oily and acneic skin: Isopropyl lanolate, Hydrogenated lanolin & Acetylated lanolin alcohol
    • THE NATURAL ONES: Natural products can also have a negative effect for those with acne-prone/oily skin conditions and types. In fact, Jojoba, Olive, Avocado Oil, as well as Shea Butter, which are more rich in fatty acids can obstruct the pores and elevate the chance of congestion.

Just remember that their presence on a skincare product does not automatically mean that it will cause a breakout! It really depends on the amount in the formulation and how they work with other types of ingredients. A good rule of thumb is to make sure they are not in the top 7 ingredients on the list. As mentioned before, each one of us is very unique and will react very differently to certain ingredients. Always patch test your product and see how your skin reacts after a few days! You need to be patient if you want to see results. Testing products before investing is much better for both your skin and your wallet.

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